“Cast Lead,” a useless effort.

Art_white "There have been numerous allegations of Israeli atrocities during the three-week campaign,including the charge that Israel fired white phosphorus shells "repeatedly over densely populated areas."

Human Rights Watch made the accusation in a report last week.

White phosphorus burns on contact with oxygen. It is legal to use as an illuminant, but the human rights organization alleges that Israel used it as a weapon.

Israel has rejected those claims as well.

Other Israeli investigations into the conduct of its troops in Gaza continue." 



Of course they will, of course.  This reminds me of the time an Arab dictator of my acquaintance displayed on his local television two scoundrels whom he accused of murdering a cabinet minister who had known too much.  The dictator (later a pal of President GW Bush) had ordered the killing, but there, on television, the two miscreants cowered in a corner while their guilt was proclaimed and el Jefe swore by the Qur'an that investigations would continue until all the evil doers would be punished, were punished as these two evil doers would be punished.

Nothing further was ever said or printed of the two miscreants, further investigations or the death of the inconvenient minister. 

Well, the photograph above is of white phosphorus shell fired from either artillery or mortars.  It is bursting over an upscale civilian apartment development.  There are a lot of pictures like this.  Any old soldier, including ones from the IDF, knows that this is white phosphorus shell.

White phosphorus (a metal) burns on contact with air.  If you get it on you, it will burn through your arm, leg, etc., until the burning phosporus comes out the other side.  Your only real recourse is to cut it out of you with a knofe before it does so.  White phosphorus shell is legally used for generating smoke on the battlefield.  It used to be common in aerial bombs.  Germany and Japan were heavily bombed with this among many other  things for the specific purpose of burning down their towns.

So.  The IDF spokeman is a liar.  The question of whther and to what extent the IDF also shot civilians deliberately I leave to the conscience of IDF soldiers who seem unwilling to shut up about it.  God bless them.

On a grander scale, Israeli complaints of continued Palestinian (Hamas) smuggling of supplies and munitions are a validation of the analytic comments I made here and on television to the effect that the Israeli effort at Gaza (Cast Lead) would be a total strategic failure if the Palestinians did not submit to the Israeli collective will as a result of that punitive campaign. 

They have not submited and so it is fair to say that "Cast Lead" was strategically a total failure that served once again to demonstrate the impotence of Israeli arms in dealing with the essence of their "problem" with the Palestinians.  What is next, forced "re-locations," a first strike against Iran as a relief from having to deal with the truly existential issue of Palestine?  How about face to face negotiations with the Palestinians as equal human beings?  How about that?  pl


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29 Responses to “Cast Lead,” a useless effort.

  1. Bill Wade, NH, USA says:

    Associated Press
    March 30, 2009 at 6:02 AM EDT
    “JERUSALEM — State-owned Israel Railways says it has fired around 40 Israeli Arabs after deciding only military veterans could do their jobs.
    The railways says its security department changed the criteria. But it also says it is interested in providing veterans work in this tight economy.
    The workers acted as lookouts at crossings to prevent trains and vehicles from colliding.”
    Sounds to me like Israel isn’t listening to anyone at all.

  2. isl says:

    Just to qualify, there is a neutral failure, and there is negative failure. This seems to fall into the latter category – i.e., all would have been better if it had never happened.
    I suppose one can hope the stories of soldiers will spur a deep reflexive consideration in Israel of what their society has become, leading to face to face negotiations. As my grandfather used to say when he no longer wanted to discuss a topic – where there is life there is hope.

  3. Cato the Censor says:

    It puzzles me to a large degree how knowledgeable people like yourself will point out obvious facts (like Israel’s invasion of Gaza being a strategic failure) which everybody in a decision-making position simply avoids like they were virulent diseases.

  4. Jon T. says:

    In my life, the most difficult situations have been best handled face to face, with honesty. It is never easy when errors have been made by me or the other person.
    Of course, it is a huge risk. It risks failure, rejection, humiliation, the need to change one’s way of thinking and believing, the willingness to admit the other may in fact be right. Face to face risks human compassion and change. It risks admitting the need and possibility of compromise. If there is no willingness to face those possibilities, face to face does not happen.
    I hope some Israelis who are dignified and noble to their cores do that. I know they are present. They may not be rulers. But they are alive.
    And Palestinians too.
    This may be harder than fighting on the battlefield this sitting down somewhere and choking on the words while seeing someone else’s eyes.
    The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission did happen. So it can be done.
    I was pleasantly surprised to learn Americans and Iranians sat down together in Moscow and initiated a dialogue. This is a good sign.
    Perhaps some Israelis and Palestinians can follow suit.
    I believe Mr. Obama is a good poker player. Some initial moves may not reveal the entire hand or plan.
    Like a skilled baseball hitter: their first at bat often is a study of the pitcher and approached much differently than later at bats. IMO, Israeli’s would do well to learn to play baseball, like it was played in the 50’s, not the high finance, corporate stearoid match play now in vogue.

  5. Brien J Miller says:

    An interesting bit down about 30 or 31 paragraphs in Seymour M. Hersh’s 30 March 09 New Yorker article suggests that the planning for this ill-advised Gaza attack had the aid of then Vice-President Cheney;
    “According to the former senior intelligence official, who has access to sensitive information, “Cheney began getting messages from the Israelis about pressure from Obama” when he was President-elect. Cheney, who worked closely with the Israeli leadership in the lead-up to the Gaza war, portrayed Obama to the Israelis as a “pro-Palestinian,” who would not support their efforts (and, in private, disparaged Obama, referring to him at one point as someone who would “never make it in the major leagues”).”
    This certainly suggests to me one reason why “Cast Lead” was such a disaster.

  6. fnord says:

    We had this discussion over at Abu Muqawama, where we have some (well just one) very smart pro-IDF person. But he poo-pooed the idea of using WP as a weapon, even if it was used as a flanking forcemultiplier tool (hinders movement).
    A confirmed miltary oldschool veteran (who recommends you):
    And as for the “WP,” we’re talking about infused felts that drop to the ground from high altitude and are designed to wick out in 15 minutes.
    Think of dropping about 130 incense sticks from 150 feet up.

  7. Good old Whiskey Papa is not really a very good illuminant round even as air burst. Wonderful at creating uncontrollable fires as a point detonating round, however.

  8. Patrick Lang says:

    I am not CLAIMING that the IDF does not have combat arms NCOs. I KNOW it. pl

  9. Dan M says:

    I’m no expert, but at the time of the latest flurry of nastiness, i was asked on a radio show to talk about “The Tunnels” (I presume this was because i was the only person in New York who had been in one and answered his cell phone). I said something to the effect that building the tunnels was no big deal and they’d be reopened quickly and normal business would resume once the bombs stopped falling. “Really? They can just do that,” I was asked. Yes they can.

  10. MRW. says:

    Now on Huffington Post:
    Israel Drops Gaza Probe, Calls Claims Hearsay

    Israel has officially ended its investigative probe into any possible misconduct by Israeli troops during the Gaza incursion known as Operation Cast Lead earlier this year. The probe — originally in response to incriminating conversations between soldiers at a military education conference that leaked to the press — is now being called-off for lack of substantive evidence beyond hearsay, Israel says.

  11. MRW. says:

    Fnord…about your 130 incense sticks analogy:
    Israel admits troops may have used phosphorus shells in Gaza

    Israel has admitted – after mounting pressure – that its troops may have used white phosphorus shells in contravention of international law, during its three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip.
    One of the places most seriously affected by the use of white phosphorus was the main UN compound in Gaza City, which was hit by three shells on 15 January. The same munition was used in a strike on the al-Quds hospital in Gaza City the same day.

    They didn’t wick. Neither did the bombs that hit these people:
    Knock yourself out watching this photographic evidence of WP hitting a UN school in Gaza and John Ging, head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and who was present, describing what you are looking at:
    ‘Phosphorus shells’ hit Gaza UN school
    There are more links on there should you care to check it out. Doubt you will.

  12. J says:

    Looks like the IDF is trying to stop any further ‘inquiries’ regarding their ‘war crimes’.
    Israeli Army Closes Probe on Gaza Acts
    …….”The decision was made after the Military police investigation found that the crucial components of their descriptions were based on hearsay and not supported by specific personal knowedge,” said an army statement. It said soldiers who first made the allegations “purposely exaggerated … in order to make a point.”……..
    Looks like the IDF is feeling the ‘heat’ and running for cover. Let’s just hope that an international war crimes tribunal will be assembled to handle the IDF’s crimes against unarmed women, babies, children, and old men.

  13. fasteddiez says:

    Who is this person on Abu M that told you all these delicious, yet misleading facts on WP? Inquiring minds wish to know!
    WP can be used as: an Illuminant; an obscurant; and as a set on fire to your ass and your crib-ant.
    Trust me, I’ve seen it used in all three roles. Do you know how artillery and its’ attendant fuse designs even function (laymen’s terms, to be sure)?
    If not, may I suggest you stick to the moral sides of issues, lest you be distracted by active I/O operations, (from whence we can only guess).

  14. Marcus says:

    “How about face to face negotiations with the Palestinians as equal human beings? ”
    How about treating the occupied population as human beings with basic human rights?
    An occupied population for the last forty years by a modern democracy? What a disgrace. The excuse for killing 1,300 people (at least half civilians)–because 20 Israelis have been killed by rockets in the last decade–is similarly pathetic.
    If you follow what people do and not what they say, as far as insight into their true intentions, the Israelis have no intention of fair resolution of this occupation, if they did they would have given these people something to lose, such as the freedom to make a decent standard of living.
    Gaza has nothing much to lose and that makes for a very tenacious enemy.

  15. johnf says:

    Doesn’t seem to have been entirely useless. Ehud Barak has managed to clamber on board the next Israeli “government.”

  16. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    well yes, negotiations leading to a one-state solution.

  17. jr786 says:

    To all
    “A report published Sunday in the Hebrew-language business paper ‘The Marker’, 21% of Israeli exporters say that they have been directly impacted by a boycott of Israeli products since the beginning of 2009.”
    Boycott Israel. The bar code for the country is 729.

  18. mo says:

    What cynicism sir. Why only last Friday an Israeli soldier was removed from the combat area after he shot a Gazan woman in the leg “by mistake” during the recent offensive, military sources say.
    See? The IDF is so morally upstanding, it will punish a man even for a non-lethal mistake.
    Sarcasm aside, I think only now can one look back at the barrel shoot of Cast Lead (Perhaps Cast Phosphorous would have been too obvious?) with any kind of calmness.
    That the IDF uses WP is nothing new. We saw its use in Lebanon in 06 but it was not widely reported then. It was, even then, used mostly as a way to bring terror to a civilian population.
    Defenders of the IDF like to use the the obscurant argument for the use of WP in Gaza (much like the poster on Abu M, who, fasteddiez, calls himself soldiernolongeriniraq, who claims he is American (although he didn’t understand my usage of the term “getting your goat”) and hints at being either a senior member of the coinista brigade or a US military department).
    The question for them is if it was being used as an obscurant, why was it being deployed in areas the IDF never dared go near like the central parts of Gaza City?
    The fact is, we can now look back at Gaza and Lebanon and we can safely say that the IDF was in both instances most definitely fighting the last war.
    It seems to have not dawned on them that we (the Lebanese and the Palestinians) are no longer cowed.
    Our fighting men are no longer commanded by incredulous cowards, calling their orders from the casinos of Monte Carlo.
    Our people our no longer afraid of the Israeli military machine.
    Yes, we will take losses and loss of life as well as infrastructure, investment and dreams will be huge.
    But they will not get surrender or retreat. Their collective will is no longer of any relevance.
    The longer they wait to give the Palestinians their due, the stronger we get.

  19. Dan M says:

    To fasteddiez —
    This anonymous guy on another blog who sounded like he knew what he was talking about told me that it was actually Nerf brand WP. Totally safe, apparently.

  20. Halfnhalf says:

    May I ask a probably silly question? Why did the Israelis name their operation “Cast Lead”? Does it mean something special in miliary talk?

  21. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Strategically useless but tactically enabled the Israel’s Armed Forces to hone in their skills and improve their over-all performance.
    You have to think of it as military maneuvers with live munitions and real targets including living human beings – sort of like how Japanese used the Chinese for bayonet practice.
    I am not making this up – go read Dr. Cordesman’s analysis of IDF performance at http://www.csis.org [minus my own commentary]. He notes improved performance compared to the Lebanon War of 2006. Find it @ http://www.csis.org/component/option,com_csis_pubs/task,view/id,5250/type,1/

  22. Patrick Lang says:

    you are right of couse about WP. I have seen all four uses of such ammunition. On th illuminating side, I suppose that is the material burning in parachute flares. It wouldn’t bothre me at all to use it on attacking infantry. pl

  23. mo says:

    Babak, if we follow that line of reasoning, we have to assume it was in preparation for something else

  24. mo says:

    The picture is quite clearly taken during the day as many other are. What is there to illuminate?

  25. Will says:

    when a loose cannon country w/ the track record of Israel possesses deliverable nukes, is not the national security of the United States at risk?
    the question is unavoidable!
    Remember the Alamo? how about the U.S.S. Liberty. Maybe Bibi & Barak can be captured after failing to post lookouts & identified by their silk underpants. See Battle of San Jacinto.

  26. Andy says:

    Those aren’t illumination rounds, they are smoke rounds designed for creating smoke screens. Google “M825A1” and you’ll find some additional information on the munition. The light gray rounds in this photo are M825A1 rounds. As you can see, there are a lot of them, and pretty much every picture I’ve seen of Israeli artillery during Cast Lead shows pallets of these rounds nearby.
    I seriously doubt these M825A1 rounds were used for incendiary effect. These munitions are, by design, not very effective for incendiary purposes. In an urban environment like Gaza, where most structures are concrete, the incendiary effects are further minimized. Additionally, Isreali employment was not consistent with an incendiary purpose.
    The only case I can find where the M825A1 started a serious fire was at a UN storage compound. Wooden pallets containing food aid stored in the open caught fire which spread to fuel trucks, causing a major and very destructive conflagration.
    Hundreds, if not thousands of these rounds were fired during the conflict. In comparison to the numbers of munitions employed, the casualties and damage they caused do not appear to be extensive. Israel could have employed the munitions differently in order to cause more fires and more casualties. This does not appear to be the case. For example, fuzing for point detonation and firing the rounds into structures would greatly increase the probability of spreading the WP-impregnated felt wedges into highly flammable interior spaces. Israel also could have similarly fired them at low angles into high-rise buildings for a similar effect. All the videos and photographs I’ve seen appear to be high-angle airbursts, which is how they are employed for creating smokescreens.
    Undoubtedly some of the munitions were used for screening and other clearly legitimate purposes. The Israelis employed a strategy designed to minimize their own casualties and smokescreens in an urban environment are a legitimate method to accomplish that. However, I don’t think screening alone can explain the large number of rounds fired, nor some other inconsistencies. Although I don’t have any verifiable evidence, I think it’s likely they were also used for psychological effect and possibly for area denial.
    There has probably been more said about Israel’s use of these WP smoke rounds during Cast Lead than most other aspects of the conflict. At the end of the day, the vast majority of Palestinian casualties (both Hamas and civilian) were caused by deadlier and less dramatic weapons: High explosives and kinetic projectiles. While the debate on the use of these phosphorus munitions is important, I think it’s critical we don’t lose sight of that fact, nor the fact that so many died for a completely pointless and ineffective military operation.

  27. Howard C. Berkowitz says:

    Just a technical note; there’s a widespread misconception that WP burns under water. I’ve worked with it as a chemist, and even assisted in the ER after a colleague had gotten fragments in his skin from a small lab explosion. In labs, WP is stored under water. http://www.msdshazcom.com/IPCSNENG/neng0628.htm
    To deal with an active fire, wet sand is better than water spray, but, as long as there is enough water mass so the heat won’t boil it away, water extinguishes WP. Water will not extinguish magnesium, thermite, or alkali metals such as sodium and potassium.
    In the ER, as the surgeon pulled out the fragments, they smoked or burned: I dropped them into trays of water and they went out.
    One note of caution on the MSDS link I gave: yes, cupric sulfate solution will inert WP and make it more visible for removal, but that’s generally bad practice if removing it from skin; copper phosphide is more toxic than WP. Copper sulfate could make sense for decontaminating objects.
    I’d want to double-check, but I believe most modern illuminating rounds use zirconium or a zirconium-magnesium alloy; less smoke and more light than WP.

  28. fasteddiez says:

    Mo: These rounds are not Illumination rounds per se.
    Illumination rounds deploy a parachute which has a illuminating substance (as the colonel said), that could have WP compound. Since it falls slowly to earth, and is wind driven, it is not thought of as an offensive weapon.
    The picture on the thread shows a WP “smoke projectile” after initial separation, initiated by a MTSQ fuze (machine timed, super Quick), where the time (when the canister deploys sub-munitions (felt sections, above and away from the intended detonation point)),has been set by an ordnance tech. The US fuzes generally have a .05 to 199.5 second window of adjustment.
    I have way more on this, but I am putting a compare and contrast to Andy’s piece together. I won’t have more until the morrow.

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